I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say this government is wilfully playing fast and loose with people's futures.
It is a false largesse to give people greater access to the money in their pensions. It's both foolish and a cynical tax grab. Once saner heads prevail I'm forecasting a U-turn.
It's clear government only half understands pensions otherwise why reduce income drawdown to 100% of GAD one year, raising it back up to 120% the next, before swiftly increasing it to 150% before the ink's dried on the last change?
Allowing income withdrawal at a rate significantly greater than the growth in the underlying funds is the wrong way to solve the retirement income problem. But for now it is perhaps the easiest.
Times quickly change, but people's behaviour changes slowly. Almost thirty years ago I was a newbie financial adviser in the South West, and a local big employer, Devonport Dockyard, was making people redundant by the thousand.
Suddenly the place was awash with people retiring early, brandishing large sums of money. Given a choice people took as much as they could as a lump sum, they talked about a bird in the hand and all that.
A small minority spent like there was no tomorrow, and a smaller minority recognised there were likely to be lots of tomorrows - most fell somewhere between the two. I met quite a few who underestimated life expectancy, underestimated their personal rate of inflation, and overestimated returns (interest rates were uncharacteristically high).
Prudent financial advisers (I like to think I was one) saw little of the money, as investors sought those who promised what turned out to be unrealistic and unsustainable rates of return.
New cars and caravans
Soon the neighbourhood driveways were filled with new cars and caravans. Houses were being spruced up with new kitchens, new bathrooms and replacement double glazing. Retailers did well, and so did the tax man. But just a few years later the same cars and caravans were sitting, rusting, and for-sale signs appeared as people tried to downsize. It was no use saying ‘I told you so' it was too late for that.
Although he relates it to investment, David Swansen says there is a huge price to pay for liquidity. I think it equally applies to our pension funds.
Too few people have been prudent enough to build a sufficiently large pension in the first place, and they're the ones most likely to access their pensions prudently.
The rest of us start out with good intentions, but probably need protecting from ourselves, more than we need 150% of GAD.
Dennis Hall is chief executive of Yellowtail Financial Planning
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